It will be readily understood that the rolls, the hammers, the machinery for punching, drilling, planing, etc., used in the manufacture and preparation of plates and angles for shipbuilding and armor plates are on a scale far different at the present date from what they were in 1869. Perhaps the most striking examples of powerful machinery for these purposes are the great Creuzot hammer, the falling mass of which has recently been increased to 100 tons, and the new planing machines at the Cyclops Works, which weigh upward of 140 tons each, for planing compound armor plates 19 in. thick and weighing 57 tons.
Some of the eminent men who have preceded me in this chair have made their inaugural address the occasion for a forecast of the improvements in practice and the developments in area of the great industry in which we are engaged. Several of these forecasts have been verified by the results; in other cases they have proved to be mistaken; nor need this excite surprise. I believe that few would have predicted, when the consideration of the subject was somewhat unfortunately deferred through want of time at our Paris meeting of 1878, that the basic process would so speedily prove itself to be of such paramount value as we now know it to possess. On the other hand, the extinction of the old puddling process has long been the favorite topic of one of our most practical ex-presidents, and I have shown you by figures that the process is not only not yet dead, but that the manufacture of wrought iron is actually flourishing side by side with that of its younger brother, steel. How much longer this may continue to be the case it would not be easy to foretell, but there can be little doubt that, just as for rails steel has superseded iron as being cheaper and vastly more durable, so it will be in regard to plates for constructive purposes, and especially for shipbuilding. It is now an ascertained fact that steel ships are as cheap, ton for ton of carrying capacity, as iron ones, and it is probable that as the demand for, and consequently the production of, steel plates increases, steel ships will become cheaper than those built of iron; but, what is more important, they have been proved to be safer, and no time can long elapse before this will tell on the premiums of insurance. Steel forgings also are superseding, and must to an increasing extent, supersede iron; while it is probable that the former will in their turn be replaced for many purposes by the beautiful solid steel castings which are now being produced by the Terre-Noire Company in France, the Steel Company of Scotland, and other manufacturers, by the Siemens-Martin process. On this subject I believe Mr. Parker can give us valuable information; and on a cognate branch, namely, the production of steel castings from the Bessemer converter, an interesting paper will be submitted to us by Mr. Allen at our present meeting.